New York state regulators received 903 applications for the first round of retail cannabis licenses, by the time the application window closed last Monday, an obvious demonstration of the sky-high interest in the upcoming adult-use industry.
But looking forward, stakeholders say there are still more questions than answers swirling around the business landscape, which is making it hard – if not impossible – to solidify plans.
The state reserved the first round of applications for those with cannabis-related criminal records and nonprofits that work with those harmed by the war on drugs. But stakeholders said the state Office of Cannabis Management hasn’t made firm decisions on:
- How many retail licenses will be issued. Media reports including from The New York Times have put the number at 150, plus an additional 25 for nonprofits, for a total of 175 initial retail permits.
- When social equity retail licenses will be awarded.
- When the 10 existing medical marijuana businesses in the state can selling recreational cannabis themselves.
- When the general public will be allowed to apply for retail permits.
Uncertainty for industry insiders
State officials have repeatedly said they hope to have sales launch by the end of 2022, but with far more regulatory uncertainty than clarity, that goal may prove elusive, said New York City attorney Lauren Rudick, who shepherded six applications in for social equity clients.
“We know they’re going to take the next 30 days or so to review the applications,” Rudick said, when asked what’s next in the licensing process. “What we know is we’re faced with a lot of uncertainty.”
Rudick said there isn’t much that’s been announced, and there are a host of questions, including when $50 million in state monies for upwards of 150 social equity retail locations will be actually put to use.
“We have no transparency or visibility into how they’re going to review these” applications, Rudick said.
That sentiment is echoed by Ngiste Abebe, president of the New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association.
“It’s very exciting to see where we are with the (adult-use) program so far in New York, but we have a lot of other questions left, because it’s a big program to be rolled out,” Abebe said.